Although sporadic gunfire was reported around the Liberian capital of Monrovia, it appeared Wednesday that troops loyal to Samuel K. Doe, the head of state, have put down a coup attempt apparently led by a former army commander.
Doe rode triumphantly through Monrovia's deserted streets in a military convoy Wednesday, United Press International reported.
Doe's forces regained control of all three of Monrovia's radio stations, which broadcast government announcements throughout the day calling for Liberians to return to work. Most people stayed home, nevertheless, and heavily armed troops patrolled the streets.
Gun Battles in Capital
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia said Wednesday afternoon that Doe appears to have put down the coup attempt, although brief gun battles were reported along one main road of the capital and at a major crossroads between the capital and the international airport, which remained closed.
There was no word on the whereabouts of former Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, 30, who apparently led the assault on the Doe government, beginning early Tuesday morning.
Until a few weeks ago, Quiwonkpa was believed to be living in Baltimore, Md. A former commander of the armed forces, he fled Liberia in 1983 when he was accused of planning a coup against Doe's government.
Lt. Gen. Henry Dubar, commander of the Liberian army, said Wednesday that he saw Quiwonkpa early Tuesday morning, as the coup attempt was unfolding, at the Barclay Training Center, the main military base, in Monrovia.
The general said he was detained at the base with several government ministers and released hours later when the struggle turned in Doe's favor and Quiwonkpa seemed to have lost contact with his forces.
Mercenary Role Seen
Dubar said Quiwonkpa and his forces, which he said included mercenaries recruited from Cuba and neighboring Sierra Leone, had entered Liberia from the Ivory Coast.
Some of the Cubans were arrested and a Czechoslovak-made weapon and secret documents about the plot were seized, Dubar said at a news conference at the Liberian Defense Department. There was no independent confirmation that mercenaries were involved.
Monrovia's radio stations put out calls for blood donors Wednesday, but the number of casualties resulting from the day and a half of fighting remained unclear. In statements Tuesday, Doe said two of his own defenders had been killed in the attack on the executive mansion and that 11 of the rebels had died; other officials put the death toll at 16. There was no mention of civilian casualties.
Heavy Damage Reported
Journalists in the capital said heavy damage was evident around the executive mansion, which contains Doe's office and living quarters.
A nighttime curfew remained in effect in the city, and soldiers were reported searching the few civilian vehicles they encountered on the streets.
Radio bulletins warned the public against harboring Quiwonkpa or any of his allies. There was speculation that Doe's government might move to detain opposition political figures, many of whom would have welcomed Doe's ouster, as well as some members of his own government.
Two weeks ago, Doe was declared the winner in a presidential election that opposition figures charged was blatantly rigged.